Manning The Home Front

“Unprecedented” seemed like such an overused word BC (Before Corona), but these past few weeks have earned that title. The generation who can remember the bombs and rationing of WWII are sadly few and far between, and the rest of us Brits have had it pretty easy ever since.

 

But unlike the very visual Nazi enemy of the 1940s, big C is a silent stalker, a predator that lurks among us unseen until it strikes, preying on our weak and vulnerable. For the majority of us, this war is not a physical one, but a mental one. And sadly, now a marathon, not a sprint. So, how can we build our defences and strengthen our armour?

 

Under siege by information

Who would have thought that locked in isolation we can be bombarded by so much information. This digital age is a blessing, enabling friends and families to stay in touch and organisations to offer Working from Home, but we are constantly absorbing News threads; PM press conferences; Social Media memes, rumours and rants; Facebook Live, Zoom meetings and Teams chats; the list is endless.

 

Getting Your Head Down

This barrage is intensified by the frustration of being cooped up and we begin to have adrenal overload. Our primitive instincts want to fight or flee from our attacker, and yet all we can do is hide. So, when bedtime comes around, our chance to rest and recuperate is sabotaged by our heightened levels of anxiety.

 

If you’re struggling to get your 8 hours a night. Have you tried the following:

  • Take time to switch off from the news, social media, etc. You may find this useful to do for periods during the day, but certainly in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Dig into the wealth of wellbeing apps out there (Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Sleep Cycle). If you don’t want to be lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of Matthew McConaughey, you can try soundscapes such as ocean waves, rain on the window, or a washing machine (works for me!)
  • Scent can be a powerful sense. Have a root through your cupboards and see what you can find in the way of essential oils, scented soaps or herbal teas. Top aromas for anxiety include lavender, rose, ylang ylang, chamomile and bergamot, so a cup of Earl Grey could hit the spot. There are even scented colouring pencils on the market if you use this as a mindfulness exercise.
  • Plan your hour before sleep to include relaxing activities. Have a hot bath; experiment with meditation or yoga; have a chamomile tea. Find whatever works for you.

 

Keeping Your Spirits Up

One thing we’re all struggling with is not turning to comfort in the bottom of a bottle. Robbed of our external nightly pastimes, we celebrate getting through another day of not murdering the kids or the other half, by a cheeky tipple, or 2, or 3… Even the government allowed the reopening of the local offie! I’m not advocating prohibition, but excess drinking leads to poor sleep, weight gain and deterioration in mental health. Not to mention the impact on your liver or wallet. Try setting boundaries, such as one unit per night, or set a couple of non-drinking days.

 

An Army Marches on its Stomach

A healthy diet is helpful in building your resilience against catching the virus and your ability to fight it should you have to. But your diet will also affect your emotional wellbeing and mental health.

 

As for your fodder, the NHS has great guidelines on what constitutes a ‘healthy diet’, such as the following basics:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks)
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)

 

Spend a few days monitoring what you eat with apps such as My Fitness Pal, Fitbit, Lose It! or MyPlate. It’s amazing to see just how many fruit and veg you can chow down on for the same number of calories as doughnut or piece of cake. It also helps in limiting how often you raid the treat cupboards out of boredom.

 

However, if you can hit everything above, every day, you’re a better soldier than I! Sometimes we do just need a night on the sofa with a bottle of wine, a big Easter egg and a soppy movie, and that’s ok too.

 

Keep fighting the good fight!